My students have been working for the past 3 days on their first math CEPA. This CEPA combines addition, subtraction, rounding, estimation, and problem solving into a real-life situation. (If you're curious about the contents of the CEPA, see my post from Monday, September 30th.) I broke my class into groups of 4 - placing my 4 strongest math students together (I was curious to see where they might take it), but mixing the remainder of my students.
Day 1 started with some minor confusion about how to effectively work in groups and where to start, but about 15 minutes into the project the entire class was focused and working. Soon they were delegating work and beginning to round/estimate. At the end of class I pulled the groups together and they shared out. I had many students share how quickly the class went by and how much they enjoyed working together. Lastly, I had each group make a plan for the next day.
Day 2 began with students reviewing the work ahead, then jumping in. Right away students were on task and beginning to figure out strategies to solve the problem. I rarely had to speak to groups about being on task because they were all so focused! Again, I pulled the groups together at the end to share strategies they used to get closer to the solution. It was amazing to see students share who were often hesitant to participate, regardless of their mathematical ability. Needless to say, I was very excited to finish up on day 3.
Day 3 arrived and groups finished up their projects and checked their work. We ended class early so that each group could share what they did. Finally, I had students reflect individually about what they thought about the project and what they learned. Many reflections included that students learned new math strategies from one another, and that they liked doing a "different" type of math lesson.
Overall, I was not expecting this first CEPA to go smoothly. I thought that we would have some tears and distress, but I hoped we could stick with it long enough to get in the routine of the CEPA. I figured the beginning of the year would make this tough, but I was wrong! The conversations I heard throughout the project were authentic and focused. Students collaborated and genuinely seemed excited to get to the solution. I cannot wait to get into our next unit and try this again. If any of you have experiences to share, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear your ideas!
Your CEPA loving blogger,